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Oddbins boss slates Network Rail

Oddbins boss Ayo Akintola has criticised Network Rail’s attitude towards independent businesses as the wine retailer faces eviction from its London Bridge store.

Oddbins MD Ayo Akintola

The wine retail announced to its customers this week that it had been given six months to evict its 7 Borough High Street site, which has been open since 1988. It is due to vacate in January, and db understands an alternative site has not been offered.

In a letter to the London Evening Standard, Akintola accused the rail network of “social cleansing” policy that would affect dozens of independent stores and communities.

He said he was writing not on Oddbins or its customers’ behalf, but “for the countless small businesses that will be forced under by Network Rail”.

“We are of sufficient size as a company, with nearly 50 stores, that the closure of one site won’t hurt us too badly,” he wrote, adding that disputes with landlords were “nothing new” for retailers.

“As neighbourhoods prosper, rents go up and fewer retailers can afford to remain. It is the nature of the game. Typically, landlords have the right to prematurely evict a tenant if they want to carry out extensive development of the site.

“But Network Rail isn’t a typical landlord – it is a government owned property giant that owns thousands of ‘off high street’ sites across London and the rest of the UK. As such, one can argue that it has a responsibility to manage that portfolio for the benefit of the communities in which it has a major property stake.”

He said Network Rail and its masters in Westminster were “coldly ripping out the hearts of neighbourhoods across London and the UK” in order to “probably” sell them to “an overseas buyer with no social mandate whatsoever”.

He added that this “sprucing up” of the property portfolio was not confined to the redevelopment of the London Bridge area, but had already taken place in Brixton and was likely to happen “right across London and other communities across the UK as Network Rail flogs its property arm.”

“While the government flies around the world touting for overseas investment, it might do better to focus on how it can help small businesses on its own doorstep,” he concluded.

The Oddbins London Bridge has already started a consumer petition to save the store and yesterday tweeted that they didn’t want to go anywhere.

A spokesman from the London Bridge store told the drinks business “We’ve been asked to vacate the location because it is being redeveloped. They don’t want us here anymore and will plug someone else in.”

The retailer confirmed it was looking for an alternative site.

 “Oddbins has been serving the London Bridge community for over 30 years and has a devoted following in the area. It would be a huge shame for all concerned if it isn’t represented in the area in the future,” it said.

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